Dec 11, 2008

Is the NXT really just a toy?

In my current effort to find a solution to a problem we had with my team's FLL robot, someone chose to remind me that the NXT is "just a toy". But I'm not so sure I agree with that view anymore---not when it is a required competition vehicle for thousands of FLL teams....not when schools are encouraged to spend thousands of hard-to-come-by dollars to use it in the classroom.

Don't get me wrong, I love the NXT, and "evangelize" for it everywhere I go; but what I'm not loving is LEGO's seeming lack of commitment and responsiveness to NXT owners. Even as a member of the MCP (MINDSTORMS Community Partners), nothing I've seen has changed that view. The primary reason I've stayed on the MCP (as the only woman, mother or non-professional scientist) is to speak up for "everyperson." But, I have to tell you, I don't think I'm making much headway.

For "rocket scientists" this may be just a toy, but for parents it's an expensive investment in their child's future. The corporation that invested thousands of dollars in kits for my local schools doesn't look at it as a toy. Yes, it's a fun way to stimulate interest in engineering---but that doesn't make it a toy. (And they don't want to see their HUGE investment in the team's travel turn to ashes because of an glitch in the system.)

If LEGO and LEGO Education didn't actively encourage its use in competition and education, they might be able to use the argument that it's just a toy, but even so, this mother doesn't think that's an excuse for ignoring the consumer.

Why can't I buy replacement or supplemental parts for NXT and TECHNIC kits? After two years on the MCP, I still don't know! Why does LEGO depend solely on volunteer advocates for problem solving?

I'd like to hear from the whole NXT community (not just the MCP). Is the NXT "just a toy?" Are you happy with LEGO support? Is it no big deal if a robot inexplicably fails during an FLL competition? Do anyone else feel taken for granted---or put down, for raising an issue or complaining?

JimK would like to add: As a former MDP and now MCP member, I have used the "it's a toy" argument before, but that was typically used to remind my colleagues that we should always keep in mind the major audience for the NXT - kids. It is a toy... and it isn't. It's an exceptional learning tool and we SHOULD speak up when it doesn't work as desired (meaning NXT-G or something as simple as a Touch Sensor). One of our jobs on this blog is to encourage discussion and point out the GOOD and the BAD in our favorite robotics kit. I'll join Fay in asking our readers to chime in here and talk about the NXT and its life-cycle - is it a mature product? Does it have problems? Where can the kit go from here? What can LEGO do to increase the success of the kit? When will we have micro-commerce (official, not BrickLink) for replacing not just electronics but that single, lost 15L beam? Where is Waldo? (Oops... wrong blog.)

39 comments:

FlyingLego said...

A product is not a toy just because the primary target audience is children. My Son uses a computer in his third-grade class to do assignments and take tests. Does that make the computer a toy?

There are many third-party programming languages designed to interface with the NXT, many of which are based in C or Java, and is beyond what most younger children can comprehend. I believe this extends beyond the realm of a toy.

I find the lack of direct support from Lego interesting. Their FLL and other robotics programs through schools have prompted high levels of NXT sales world-wide, though when the robot is inconsistent or seems to have an internal programming error, I have to throw it out to independent forums for help, which has wonderful people willing to offer advice and support, though I would think that Lego would step up and take a more direct role in supporting such a widely use product.

With the increasing complexity of the FLL 'games', and the countless hours that FLL coaches spend with the kids, I think it reasonable to not think of it as a toy, and to expect the consistent performance and support that we would expect from any technical device.

Anonymous said...

Lego is just a toy company, irrespective of whether the 'toy' is much more.

[free market rant]
Business is about making money not about your kids future.. (my kids not yours)

Charge what the sucker will pay, not what it costs.. (Market driven pricing)

Change the standards frequently, you'll sell twice as much.. (standards are for making money)

Always keep the best stuff for the five year business plan.. (move back every year)

Give with one hand take with the other.. (something new doesn't have to be better)
[/free market rant]

Basically if you want to talk to any Business do it with MONEY.
Ask yourself can you outspend the 'must have that DeathStar' spenders? No? they can't hear you... (After all, it costs more and doesn't have software to update!)

Just like NXT replaced the RCX, the new version will be along soon and you'll all pay Lego for it. You know you will. So do they.

The future of all things good, like linux, is in the hands of the dedicated volunteers. Change your firmware do so much more. Run an unofficial unlimited Firmware Class in FLL!

Alkarex said...

I use NXT both as a toy and as an efficient fast prototyping platform for robotic concepts. In both cases, I am quite annoyed to have to rely mostly on (the very good) BrickLink and eBay to buy the pieces I need, with the inherent varying prices, international shipments, and having to buy from many different places for a few bricks, when these are not out of stock all together.

Rick Rhodes said...

VEX robotics has a tech support number that they run from 8AM-5PM Monday-Friday. Why can't LEGO?

If live tech support results in too many overhead costs, then why not provide email tech support? Or how about contractual support; e.g., paid support for a specific time period?

I'm speaking as an ordinary consumer. (Rocket scientists will always find a way to fix things themselves).

Brian said...

+1 on the need to have an easier way to replace parts. I think I would prefer them to come in a "NXT plastic parts replacement set" (so I have a few spares) rather than one beam at a time. I would rather spend $20-40 dollars and get a fistful of replacement parts for all of our school's kits, rather than painstakingly identifying them brick by brick and ordering them in one-sies and two-sies.

What can be done to improve the NXT?
1. Stop using a proprietary plug for the wires, use instead a standard RJ-12. (People are so desperate they are cutting and gluing their own, or cutting the end off a standard jack and then using plastic wrap to keep it in, C'mon, Lego is the sole provider of the plastic parts, do they have to try and be the sole provider of the wires as well?)
2. Add a SD card so there is more memory. (Would be nice for larger graphics, more audio, and dare I say it... video)
3. Headphone jack on NXT so that external speakers can be plugged in (yep, sometimes I want it LOUDER)
4. Separate the batteries from the controller. (So the screen and buttons can be placed in a spot appropriate for them (such as the top), and the batteries in a different place (center of gravity - bottom))

Eric D. Burdo said...

Brian, +1 for those ideas. I really like the idea of a SD card port, and the separation of the battery from the controller.

Currently, I haven't had to deal with LEGO on any support issues yet, so I can't comment there. But the extra/replacement parts? Yeah, it would be nice to buy a pack of common parts.

Anonymous said...

I've been debating with myself on this issue, as I have other hobbies and don't do robotics for a living. Big question I ask myself: Is it worth my time to play with NXT or not? How I get around this is that I like robotics and find robot competitions fun to watch and inspiring. My brain is stimulated in good ways that I don't get otherwise from other tasks. But, those large robots built for destructive competitions are expensive and I don't have time to participate in groups. So, playing with NXT is the way I go and it stimulates areas of my brain that help me be innovative in my job (water quality research).

megamindstorm101 said...

" but for parents it's an expensive investment in their child's future."

ha ha my parents dont know that...yet :) It took quite a long time for me to convince them to let me buy it. but after 3 years of hard work trying it finnaly paid off.


I AGREE lego is not any toy. It bugs me too how people at school (who I highly dought could do anything with this) say ha ha you still play with lego. The brand is really whats making people think it is just a toy. I have yet to see a small child 5 or 6 or so to make something cool with this thing. It just doesnt happen. Therefore it isnt a toy. also I have never heard of a toy with over 20 languages to program. and robots that help solve complex tasks. Many people use this to learn the basics of robotics and I dont think stuff to teach is considered a toy. Actually whenever I mention the NXT to my parents when I say I want to order something I call it a highly educational product. They disagree they think its just I toy like lots of others.

LayTor said...

Once upon a time I asked for a replacement part. LEGO was quick to respond they would soon deliver... I have yet to see this part or any store credit. They allow open source
software. But don't encourage anything other then what they can up and spin out.

If you can use a toy for a tool or a tool for a toy. If you encourage a kid to learn or adult to explore GREAT! Look for ways to make it better. LEGO seems like a costly toy or a cheap tool. I do wish that the parts would separate(a display, standard USB ports we could use, a separate battery box, a vision system. BUT IT NEEDS TO WORK CROSS PLATFORM! I still can't get Bluetooth or Vista support!

Anonymous said...

I love legos. I got back into them when I first heard about a microprocessor brick coming out in 1998 by popular science.
Is it a toy? Yes!
All of my robots, although quite complicated are just models and tests of what I might want a robot to do. I believe toys which educate and go beyond simple fun are GOOD TOYS, and thats what my legos are.
I am disappointed with the Mindstorms software. It was the first time I paid for a patch and its still buggy.
Nicthegr

megamindstorm101 said...

they "sell" a patch for mindstorms software? and for some reason (i guess I got lucky?) I never had any problems with nxt-g that ruined my program. The biggest I got was that pop up that said cant save. That was easily solved by copying all the blocks and pasting them in another panel and then saving that.


NXT is definatly once again IMHO not a toy. I have yet to see a toy that does stuff that this does. I dont think its a toy no matter what peopel say. But dont worry im not going to bite you if you disagree that wouldnt be nice.

NXTMonger said...

I'd say that the NXT could be a toy or not be a toy. If you are making a NXT-NXT remote-controlled car
it would be a learning tool (learning about programming) or a toy (an RC car).
In FLL it definitely is not a toy.


If you are in a spelling bee, would you call a dictionary a toy?
If you are in a robotics competition, would you call the robot a toy?

The NXT is branded as a toy automatically for laymen:
(duuuuuuuh... lego. Isn't that fer babies or sumfink? duuuuuuuh...)

NO IT IS NOT A TOY!
Well, not necessarily, anyways. Only if you use it as one.

LinearActuator said...

NXTMonger has a very good point, it depends on how you use the NXT which classifies it as a toy or not.

Also, It depends on whether or not you think of it as a toy. If one person believes the NXT to be a toy, they will use it as a toy, as that is what they think it is. If you use it as an educational tool, then that is what it is to you.

I currently go to High School, and anyone who you talk to about the NXT brick automatically tags it as a robotics kit and not a toy, even though other LEGO products are toys – are used for amusement and nothing more.

As for the replacement of parts, I was missing a piece from a model I bought a few months ago, and they sent it to me in New Zealand in about 3 weeks. Obviously missing parts compared to lost parts have a higher priority on LEGO’s list of things to do, but if you purchase a part, they should still send it in the same manor and time period - you are a paying customer after all.

I was just recently discussing the fact that LEGO seems to rely on volunteers in a community to sort out their product’s issues, they even link to blogs like the NXTStep on the LEGO MINDSTORMS homepage – almost like they want you to go to these sites and ask the community for help. (Not that that’s a bad thing ;-))

But I cannot see Microsoft or other big corporations getting anywhere if they had no product support, if the product was too hard to operate and no support was given, customers would just move on and buy another product, and potential customers would be put off by the lack of service from the company.

Pe-ads said...

LinearActuator, I agree with you totally.
How you use NXT depends on your perception of NXT. If you perceive it as a toy, you use it as a toy. If you perceive it as a tool, you use it as a tool.
Besides, shouldn't toys help people learn?
In the past 30-40 years, toys have become just toys, up to the point where they don't help people learn.
Toys should help people think, or learn skills.
I play strategy board games and computer games. I don't consider them a waste of time. Why? I enjoy them and they help me to think things out strategically and manage units, resources etc.
I use NXT and play with Lego. Why?Im enjoy it and because NXT helps me to program and Lego helps lateral and cognitive thinking.
(Most) Toys should help people have fun, but learn at the same time. People now have thrown all that out and now buy plastic garbage.

Pe-ads

Noel Maywald said...

Hooray! Someone has finally been brave enough break out of the fog of euphoria into the sunshine of reality. Well done Fay. I'm with you.

I too am an adult fan of LEGO. Having had a great experience with RCX (I have 3 of them) I was expecting a good deal better from NXT. However, after a short time of NXT usage (I have 2 of these) it became obvious that all was not well. True, there were some really excellent advances. But there were also reverses (there are some things RCX does far better) and these took the shine off the experience. Of particular note is NXT-G. Many of its failings have been noted but many have not. As a professional programmer, if I had to use NXT-G ... well I wouldn't. So to answer Jim Kelly's question about life cycle, No, I don't think it is any where near mature. The concept is brilliant but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired.

Regarding Fay's problems with MyBlocks I have very little experience to offer because I avoid them like the plague. The concept is good but what is the good of a piece of reusable code if you can't edit it? (And no, the MyBlock editor does not allow a lot of edit functions.) When I want a subroutine I implement it with a task. Its not pretty but it works.

I don't think it matters a lot whether or not Mindstorms is a toy. What concerns me is the way in which the phrase "just a toy" is used. In most cases it is used to excuse some failing or weakness of the product. The real concern is the implication that it is all right to provide our children with toys that don't work properly or don't meet expectations. It is interesting to note that we seldom hear phrases such as "its only a race car" or "its only a jet ski" or "its only a Hollywood movie" and yet all of these are toys desingned to give fun and entertainment. Their manufacturers put in huge amount of money and effort to ensure the highest quality. I really like Ole Chrisiansen's (LEGO founder) attitude. When he was making wooden ducks he wasn't thinking "its just a toy". He was thinking "only the best is good enough". So is Mindstorms a toy? By the usual understanding of the word, yes. But what a wonderful toy it is, for not only does it provide fun and entertainment for children and adults, it is educational, promotes creativity and has spawned a community the likes of which few other toys could claim. Being a toy should not diminish the effort to make it outstanding.

If there is a "LEGO company ear" out there or someone who has access to one, I would dearly love to provide you with details of my ideas, praise and criticism. Feel free to contact me. Mindstorms is a great product but there is still a long way to go both with the product and LEGO's approach to their customers.

Kirk Backstrom said...

Is the NXT a toy or not? I think this question misses the point. It is like asking if pieces of wood are a toy or not - they can make toys, furniture, etc, etc.

And the comments that it depends on what you use it for is what defines it is closer to the truth. But I think we should generalize what it is a bit further:

It is a material/tool for the rapid creation of products -- a tool that can be used to make toys, competition robots, lab apparatus, prototypes, and the list goes on. You have designers at the LEGO company that take the components and use them to make toys like Alpha Rex, and you have many others that take the components and make competition robots in FLL. I think that the NXT is what we make of it (literally), and there is much proof that it can be used to do so much more than just make toys.

Well done LEGO for having such a great tool available and please do all that can be done to perfect the product (i.e. software). Ten years has past with 2 outstanding robotic platforms (the RCX and NXT), so why not go even bigger (see Brian Davis' suggestions above) for the next 10!

Kirk

GreetingsGQ said...

From Lego Customer Service you can order individual replacement parts.
From Lego Education you can get part packs.

Fay Rhodes said...

I can see that LEGO Education is starting to carry more packs of parts, but they are also charging extremely high prices.

For example, LEGO Education sells axle 7's in a pack of 50 for $10. On Bricklink (a re-seller), they can be had for less that a penny a piece.

From what I can see, there is the same kind of high pricing for all the parts packs.

Fay Rhodes said...

I follow the link to LEGO customer service (for replacement parts) and am directed to fill out a form that does not exist---at least not on my Mac.

I'm not trying to be difficult; but this is just another example of not really paying attention to the customer.

Jim Kelly said...

I'm extremely interested in prototyping, especially the concept of fast prototyping (Watch Prototype This! on Discovery - great show), and I'd like to see the NXT advance further into letting hobbyists use it for this purpose.

On one of my last visits to a LEGO Store (with fellow blogger Chris Smith) I was really disappointed to see the LEGO block bins where you could buy individual LEGO blocks in all shapes, sizes, and colors... in whatever quantities you wanted... but not for Technic.

I'd like to see a similar setup in LEGO Stores where they have Technic bins with gears, beams, connectors, and more, all available for purchase individually.

When I'm working on a project that requires visits to the hardware store, I'm impressed that I can buy something as unique as a single bolt or locknut... let me do the same for my NXT kit and Technic parts (online or in a store) and my toy has now become a prototyping tool.

BlueToothKiwi said...

What is a toy? I decided to consult the oldest Collins Dictionary we had in the house from last century (not the online one which has the meaning contaminated in recent times)

Toy = An object designed to be played with.

Well. The Wii & PSP my 8 year old plays with, the NXT kit my two teenage boys (and my self) plays with - and all the mobile gadgets I play with - they are all toys based on the above definition.

All of those toys I mentioned are bought from companies (Sony, Nintendo, LEGO, Apple and others....) that are facing the economics of a downturned economy with reduced revenues with increased customer service cost.

We can sit here and whinge about the lack of support as the manufactured who thinks it is a toy.

But Believe me - the LEGO MINDSTORMS employees do not think it is a toy - I learned that pretty early on as an MCP!

Some of the members of this team at LEGO have dedicated a big part of their adult life making NXT the prime choice for parents who care about the mental development of the kids, and schools that care about improving the life skills and team work skills of kids.

Yeap - some of the issues with NXT are pretty annoying.

But as a father, mentor, coach I think a NXT kit is one of the top 3 'toys' of the last decade.

just my 2c

Dave Parker said...

Another observation is that if viewed as a traditional toy (and a lot of the younger kids and unknowning parents I talk to think of it that way), the NXT is not a very good one. It is expensive, difficult to build with, there is no remote control, you can't have much fun without doing some real programming, and the AlphaRex model on the front isn't nearly as capable in person as it look on the box.

For $50 you can get a RoboSapien type thing that will be way more fun for someone looking for a traditional toy.

I can't tell you how many kids I talk to at our schools who say they want that "LEGO walking robot" they saw a picture of. Luckliy most parents see the price and say "no way" to these kids. On the other hand, many well-meaning (and well-heeled) parents buy it hoping for an educational toy for their kid who wants the walking robot. Then it sits on the shelf after the demo robot got built and that's it. This is the primary reason I created www.nxtprograms.com. There has to be some bridge between the young kid who wanted the walking robot and the future engineer inside who just wasn't ready when they got it. But I think we still have a long way to go here.

222Doc said...

Lego is expensive for a toy , true. But as a robotic platform it is VERY inexpensive. There would be no way i could ever afford any other platform and build so many odd contraption for this kind of money and so easy to prototype.
Lego ed has things that i would only buy from them,example new pneumtics, switches gears to name even a few, rams 2 for 10$ is much less than any BL store, but things like beams pins axles, are way less at BL. Covet'emptor

megamindstorm101 said...

well to keep it all going. I do have to admit with everyone else that it does depend on how you use it and look at it. Personnaly I have never heard of a toy that can be made into a (lego)car factory. But heh thats just me maby there is one *shrugs* :P . But if you look at it like me as an educational product that will take me and introduce me to robotics where I can really make money off of robots. I hate those peopel who program little programs and then tell me im not smart because im just using a toy to learn what I want. Sure they can learn to program from things like visual C++ C# ect. but they shouldnt let me down since im using a "toy". If I gave them one of the sets they probably would use it as a toy and not do much. You give me another one I would make monster machines with massive things. (one thing I think would be cool is making an rc monster car with 3 NXTs remote with 1 and car with the other 2. If I gave it to someone who uses it as a toy they would probably build 3 small robots and not think of the monsterous possibilities. I think it isnt a toy the "kid down the street" may think it is. But brands fool you.

Mike1 said...

I don't take LEGO Mindstorms NXT set as a toy. The Mindstorms line was supposed to be a line of "toys" but turned out to be different after the RCX. The very first robots with using LEGO was definently not "toys" "Toys" would probably not include a few hundred dollars set that can be programed from NXC, Java, and the simplest NXT-G. A standard "toy" would not include the research of students at MIT developing this line. A "toy" would not have a large community of thousands of fans that make forums, websites, and invest countless hours and money into the NXT.
But LEGO certainly did not fill in all of what it needs to do, such as not providing a better programing enviorment, not enough replacement parts, and most of all, it never (ok, rarely) has accepted many of the ideas we want.
I have the habit of typing big blocks of text so to summurise what I said, I don't think LEGO NXT is a toy and LEGO should provide more help and take in our ideas.

Bryan B said...

Wow - there are some really high expectations of LEGO in this thread.

If MIT is involved, then it isn't a toy? NO WAY. Some of the smartest people in the world sit around and make toys. These people are called engineers and they graduate from schools like MIT.

LEGO should take in our ideas? Easy: MUP, MDP, MCP1, MCP2, MCP3, and Ambassador Program. Seems to me they listen to the ideas of people that use the NXT.

LEGO should provide more help or have an 8 - 5 support line? Most "support" you get nowadays over the phone for a product either involves an ongoing contract or they ask for your credit card when you call. Additionally, would that be 8 - 5 Eastern Time...because that is more like 1 PM - 10 PM Denmark time. And, are you "really" using the NXT 8-5 or in the evening? Maybe it should be a 24 hour help line with 10 operators.

Sorry everyone, but it sounds like a lot of people need to step back and get a little perspective on this. It IS a toy. LEGO is a company that can't GIVE away services or they will go broke. And, just because you build a robot and it doesn't do what you intended, it does NOT mean that there is something wrong with the NXT or NXT-G.

I think you all ought to go sit down and play with your NXT for a while and remember how much fun it is.

PLAY WELL!!!

Rick Rhodes said...

Bryan,

The VEX support line was an example of technical support, not a one-to-one analogy for what LEGO ought to do.

FLL teams in particular could benefit from direct support, in my opinion--and there are various ways to do it.

The fact that LEGO is a toy does not obviate the need for LEGO to be forthcoming about system bugs that crop up from time to time. I could name a couple right now, if they were relevant to the post.

I think most who post to this blog think that the NXT is one great toy/machine/tool/hobby/computer. But there are pluses and minuses in relying on the user community alone for some of these problems.

Now, on to another post!

Fay Rhodes said...

Perhaps it is FLL who should be providing some more organized technical support. It might even the playing field a bit.

Another idea is born...
Saturday workshops for new FLL coaches in Oklahoma. We are really new at this out here.

Bryan B said...

Rick - Please name your specific suggestion for technical support so I can address the underlying cost issue for it. I can make a similar argument on any form of tech support. So, don't take my sarcasm too literally.

Fay - Now that is a wonderful idea. FLL would only have to provide support for a few months a year. They should have a coaches forum where you can get the help of fellow coaches AND experts. The only hitch is that most of the supposed experts are also coaches. So, they are busy with their own teams.

Anonymous said...

My dad gave me my copy of One Kit Wonders early instead of Christmas! Woot!!! I don't know which robot to build first but I like all of them. I hope NXT STEP keeps doing more books and I'll buy them. You are the best NXT blog on the Internet.

Kev

Dave Parker said...

FLL itself, I have heard, is "Four people in a small office", so they can't handle much support. All the real work is by volunteers everywhere. There is in fact a FLL coaches forum, and that is where a lot of questions get answered. Check out the forums on the FLL web site and come join us there! Also, some regions have a coaches email list for announcements and info sharing.

Unfortunately good tech support is too expensive for even most for-profit companies nowadays. They get flooded with questions that are not even flaws in their products. This is why tech support is usually outsourced and is usually pretty bad. At least the internet communities give us some help, if you can sort out the real help from the rumors, random gripes, and "the blind leading the blind"!

Dean Hystad said...

The local affiliates should be providing the support. But it will have to be done by volunteers because my state FLL fees are almost nothing.

In Minnesota we offer building and programming classes at the start of each season. We also have a mentor network. Need a programming expert? Just call and one will show up on your door (shudders remembering countless cold basements, frantic kids and icey roads).

Interestingly few people take the classes or request a mentor. Our problem is getting coaches to admit that they're drowning and need help.

Max Vrany said...

Toy/Not Toy

It's BOTH! It's a toy for everyone and a tool for everyone.

It feels like Lego should sell two versions of NXT, one to be used as a toy and one to be used as a tool.

Other improvments could include making the sensors and motors wireless, making two kinds of motors, one for power and one for control, a touch screen interface, a better text entering interface.

Michael302 said...

It's what you want it to be. Mostly a fun tool for most, A very cool toy for not so many. Lego could have done a WAY better job on NXT-G, Integrating Great programs like RoboDNA, RoboRealm and NXT-Remote into it. They also could have done a better job making sensors and motors smaller, look at the RCX. Lego also should've worked more on sensors and things like remote controls. There are lot's of third party things out there but not everybody (myself included) feels quite as safe with them as with Lego. It's sorta like if your dad said "Jump off this cliff, I can promise you you'll be safe." You'll still think twice about it but most people wouldn't jump off if a stranger had said that. The way it is now I think that the Mindstorms is for slightly advanced users and not for people that need computer support just to connect two Bluetooth devices (which has me scratching my head ALOT). All-in-all the NXT is a very good device that needs some followup before it can be considered a toy.

Anonymous said...

The contoller and sensors are fine but they are held together by a plastic construction kit so it's a bit hard to try and shrug off the "toy" label.
Those balls in the kit used as castors are pathetic. Shame they only provide 2 reasonable wheels with the nxt.
If they improved the mobility/wheels options in the kit I would have been more impressed.

Anonymous said...

LEGO Education North America offers technical support, Monday through Friday, from 8AM-5PM CST. Their toll free number is 1-800-362-4308.

They also offer a wide range of replacement parts via their website, www.LEGOeducation.com. Simply click on the Tools, Resources, and Parts link in the left nav bar.

In addition, LEGO Education North America offers a Resource Set for the NXT that includes an enormous array of specialty and standard Technic elements for the brand's leading robotic set.

If you should run into problems with your programming or find you need a few extra elements to complete your robotic project, give them a call. They're more than willing to help.

Anonymous said...

I will admit it takes a bit of looking, more than you'd think necessary but spare parts are readily available at http://shop.lego.com/PAB/. As mentioned by others, if don't have enough parts with your base kit, get the educational resource kit or the technical resource kit from legoeducation. With these you'll have plenty of parts.

Anonymous said...

While I was surprised somewhat by the variability my NXT exhibits, upon reflection I have to admit it performs remarkably well for what it is, basically an advanced toy. But toy or not it is a device that has limitations and constraints including in the programming environment.

Personally I'm quite amazed at what you get for the price. I think folks are expecting way to much at this price point especially considering the relatively smaller market for higher end toys of this type.

I don't think it is reasonable to expect lego to provide technical support beyond resolving defective parts issues or at least free support. In any case given the experience level of many users I doubt this would be a cost effective area for lego to enter. The average user would rack up the full price of the kit in no time. I probably would have taken advantage of it myself. Frustrating yes, but that is pretty much the reality of buying a $200 toy.

Anthrakia said...

The NXT (and the entire Mindstorms series) is indeed a toy. However, it is not JUST a toy. The NXT was designed for children for entertainment purposes with an emphesis on education. However, it has the capabilities to be used for more serious applications, such as formal education and competitions.

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